As this year’s five month travel stint draws to a close I reflect back on what I have learnt. Wow – so much! Every time I go away for an extended period of time, I truly do feel like I enter the ‘university of life’, receiving so many lessons and opportunities for growth. Of course I realise you don’t need to travel for this to be the case – wherever you are the lessons and opportunities are there if you’re looking for them. But there’s something about the relative freedom of travel that encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, challenge old beliefs and patterns and grow into a bigger and better version of yourself. As a fellow adventurous spirit, my dad encouraged my sisters and I to travel from a young age. He used to say it would ‘expand our horizons’ and I absolutely agree with this; not only does it literally expand our geographical horizons, but it also expands the horizons of our minds and spirit, as we grow ‘bigger’ with each journey we take.
The biggest lesson I’ve taken from this trip is to trust. To trust in myself, to trust in others and, most of all, to trust in the universe. From a shaky start, where trust gave way to fear and anxiety, gradually I’ve learnt to relax and go with the flow of the universe more and more. I know this potentially sounds rather fey and flippant, but I see now that surrendering to the universal flow is in fact one of the most powerful and courageous things you can do for yourself and the world.
Most of our problems come from our desire to try and control our external world and our subsequent frustration when we realise the universe is simply not going to play along with this game! I really do feel the universe actually has a rather cheeky sense of humour and likes to toy with us – the more we arrogantly assume we can control our outer world, the more it will trip us up and show us that this definitely isn’t the case! This trip has really brought this lesson home to me and, somewhere along the line, I made a conscious decision to try and let go of any attempts to control my path and instead attempt to sit back and enjoy the ride of whatever the universe gave me.
Initially, this is an incredibly challenging transition to make but, gradually, I’ve noticed that life has become easier and easier, and at the times when I’m able to let go of control completely, it flows beautifully and effortlessly and with much serendipitous joy and lighthearted playfulness. A dear, wise friend of mine likes to describe life as a playground for us to enjoy and learn from, and more and more do I see what she means. When we drop our efforts of control, which, let’s be honest, require us to concentrate with a furrowed brow much of the time, then we have more energy available to appreciate what comes our way instead – and I’ve found that worry lines soon turn to laughter lines… 🙂
The clarity of this realisation has built steadily during the trip, until the point that over the last couple of months I have truly felt like I am being gently pushed along a particular path by an unseen force, which I can only describe as the universe or cosmos. My sense of connection to the universe is blooming, and I am beginning to see a method to the apparent madness of life, and my path is becoming clear. Although, conversely, I also see that the method is the madness at times, in that it really doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing, as long as we can appreciate the gifts that each moment brings to us and use every experience as a lesson or opportunity to grow. I realise my next step unfolds much more easily when I don’t try to second guess what it should be – I seem to meet the right people, have the right conversations and arrive at the right places to teach me what I need to make the next step seem obvious, and I also see how I am also influencing others’ paths in the same way. It’s really quite beautiful to see it all unfold, with an intelligence and grace that is far, far beyond what I could ever imagine, yet alone orchestrate, with my puny human mind!
And, most of all, it’s a much more relaxing, enjoyable way to live (deliberate emphasis – never have I felt such prolonged joy than over the last few months). Even if I find myself in what seems like an unpleasant situation, I now am more inclined to relax, sit back and let it happen, trusting that I’m in exactly the right place, and intrigued as to what lesson or opportunity this situation will bring, and where it will lead me to next. Sure, there are still crappy days and low moods that pass through, but now I see it all as part of a bigger adventure, a bigger journey, the significance of which I know will become more apparent the further along the path I walk. And this feeling of trust in the ‘bigger picture’ makes those bad days much, much easier to deal with and, in fact, the bad days often turn out to be the biggest gifts of all when you look back.
You often hear the message of trust that begs us to remember that we came into this world with every tiny detail of our existence accounted for and lovingly attended to, even down to our tiny little baby fingernails. Equally, our every breath and every heart-beat are looked after for us throughout our lives. Clearly there is a miraculous, creative, loving, mysterious force in action, that allows us to come into being and gifts us with a period of time on this mad, crazy playground of a planet. And yet, still we find it hard to trust in this force. Instead, we try and assume control, and in the end we suffer for this.
As I sit here in a beautiful converted farmhouse in north-east France, feeling excited about the week-long retreat that I will begin co-hosting here tomorrow, I feel an immense feeling of gratitude that life’s path has brought me to this place at this point in time and I trust that the week will bring me and everyone else that gathers here the lessons and opportunities for growth that are needed. And so, I choose trust… 🙂